From Endurance to Dressage
While in bed after the first day's rides, I laid there thinking about the counter canter, shifting my hips forward and back as I imagined picking up whichever canter lead I wanted. I was ready for Sunday's lesson.
As is Christian's routine, he asked me to just ride as I normally would. Speedy, not his usual self, continued to scream and look frantically for Sydney. It was frustrating because he doesn't behave this way at home, and he certainly doesn't do that at shows. Christian's soft response was always, "no problem …" This is my favorite thing about riding with him; nothing the horse does bothers him. He simply takes what the horse offers and turns it into his idea.
Since Speedy wanted to be quite forward, Christian said to use it. Make going forward my idea. So we used the long sides pushing for more and more. As we circled at B/E, he had me flex Speedy to the inside while asking with my inside leg for him to step as deeply as possible. This is very hard work for the horse.
Once Speedy was working better and had softened somewhat through his neck and poll, Christian asked me to pick up the left lead canter while tracking right down the long side. I paused a moment to remind myself to push my left hip forward, and suddenly, we had it.
I swear, Christian laughed out loud. He was like a little kid at Christmas! He was that pleased that I got it on the first try. I heard comments from the auditors about when did I have time to practice. I later told them that I had done it while in bed the night before. Christian shared a very funny story about another woman having practiced switching hands with the whip while in bed. His punchline to the story was, "her poor husband!" He's quite the funny guy.
Just for good measure, he had me repeat the counter canter a few times, and then we moved on to something else. I was kind of disappointed as I wanted to practice a bit longer, but Christian is all about pushing his students to do more. I know he figured it was a waste of time to practice what I clearly already understood. I am glad we moved on because the next set of exercises really pushed me to the very edge of what I could do.
Sarah, of Eventing in Color, who was there to watch, later explained that on Sunday, he was finally able to really do riding lessons that were less about theory and more about challenging my skills. In particular, my control of the outside shoulder and haunches.
For the first real exercise, Christian instructed me to ride a 5-loop serpentine at the trot. I was ever so thankful to hear one of the auditors exclaim that this particular exercise is much harder than it looks. Thank you, kind lady. It was hard! What I most appreciated about Christian was that he didn't nitpick the unevenness of my serpentines. Of course they weren't all 12-meters apart, but at least I got 5 loops!
The next exercise went like this: trot down the long side with a volte at B and a tear drop at M back to a volte at B with a tear drop at F. Repeat over and over but, add voltes at R and P instead of B. It was a fast paced exercise that really challenged my control. So many changes of direction kept me really focused on what I was doing.
Half-volte to wall: Changing direction through a half-volte is usually taught quite early on in a rider's career. In this figure, the rider riding on long side of the arena performs a half-volte toward the inside of the ring, before gradually coming back to the wall. It is not asked for in dressage tests, but is one of the most common ways judges ask for a change of direction in the show ring, as it provides a fairly quick change of direction. This figure (also to be known as the 'tear drop') can also be used for more advanced training. For leg-yielding, the half-volte is used to get increased engagement from the horse, and the animal is then leg-yield back to the track instead of being allowed to drift back there. The horse has a relatively short distance to cover, and is generally naturally drawn to the wall. In half-pass, the volte can be used to establish bend, before asking for a half-pass back to the wall. (from Wikipedia)
This exercise really pushed me because each change came so quickly. The whole time I felt a little bit behind the action. Not physically, but mentally behind. The day before, the exercises felt like they were in slow motion; I was there in the exact moment and feeling what I needed to do. On Sunday, my brain was trying to keep up!
Once we were in the rhythm of that exercise, Christian threw a big monkey wrench at me. Instead of trotting the volte at B, he asked for a half circle left lead canter at B, walk at X, and pick up the right lead to do a circle at E. Sometimes he asked for half circles, sometimes full circles, but we always walked at X and changed leads.
This was a very challenging exercise. Simply cantering a 10-meter circle is a challenge. Including a downward transition to walk with an immediate upward to canter on the other lead adds an entirely new element of difficulty. I don't know from which level these exercises come from, but I was beyond thrilled to be be even attempting them. We might not have done them very prettily, but we did do them.
The following photos are thanks to Sarah from Eventing in Color. Most of them show us struggling, but the last one is pretty nice. Thank you, Sarah!
This was the first time I finished a ride feeling tired with Christian (sh! don't tell him!!!!!). I was thrilled with what we had done, but I was physically and mentally tired. But since I am a total glutton for punishment, I had to tuck Speedy back in his stall and get ready to ride Sydney within 40 minutes! More on that ride in a day or so.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: